Researchers set out to evaluate how effective most commonly used therapies are for the treatment of chronic pain over the last ten years. They wrote that overall effectiveness remains poor and inconsistent, despite major advances in understanding the mechanisms that underlie pain.
Approximately one in every five people worldwide has chronic pain. In the USA alone, over $210 billions annually are spent on treating chronic pain – annual costs in the UK for just back pain are estimated to be between $26 and $49 billion. As current treatments on their own do not appear to provide adequate relief from pain and improvements in physical and emotional functioning, the authors believe future research should concentrate on combining different drugs, drugs with psychological therapy, as well as medications with somatic treatments.
However, none of them seems to be considering trying a different tack altogether ~ medical acupuncture.
There are many different holistic therapies that have had great success with various forms of pain relief, including medical acupuncture, which has been proven to be highly effective in pain management and is also much quicker and simpler for health practitioners to learn than classical acupuncture.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a Western term which means “puncturing with needles”. It involves inserting needles into the patient and manipulating them, at any of the 360 or so points around the body. The needles are far smaller than those used for giving injections, as they do not need to be hollow and the lengths vary with the type of treatment.
The origins of acupuncture can be traced back as far as 4,000 years, and it is thought to have begun in China where the ancient practice of this therapy is known as classical Chinese acupuncture. Medical doctors in China have been commonly using acupuncture in hospitals for about the last 50 years, and although this form of the therapy is referred to as a traditional Chinese medicine, it is actually a modernised form of the ancient therapy.
Over the last few decades in particular, there has been much interest in acupuncture in the Western world. So much so that a Western form, called medical acupuncture, has been developed and introduced. This form practiced by Western doctors is more simplified and it’s not necessary for them to first study the traditional theories and techniques as is based on scientific method.
How does acupuncture work?
The traditional Chinese medicine and classical Chinese acupuncture methods are based on the principle that a person’s health is a balance of yin and yang – two opposing but complementary forces: Yin represents the blood and yang represents a person’s vital energy, known as Qi or Chi. In order for these two to function in harmony, acupuncture serves to encourage the free-flow, or regulate the flow, of both where required.
In Chinese treatments, the needles — which are called filiform needles — are inserted at points of the body that follow the fourteen channels, or meridians, using the traditionally identified acupuncture points.
In Western medical acupuncture, treatments are based on the scientific method, using medical knowledge of the body and how our physiology and biochemistry are affected by the needles. Medical acupuncture therefore has no reference at all to either the acupuncture points or meridians used in the Chinese therapies.
What can acupuncture be used for?
In China, the most common use of acupuncture today is as an alternative to anaesthetics during surgery. When inserted at certain points around the body, the needle serves to block out the pain that would otherwise be felt at the point of surgery. This is of course very beneficial to patients who might otherwise be at risk under anaesthetic.
Chinese doctors also find acupuncture useful for the treatment of some types of heart disease, and for treating high blood pressure, as well as appendicitis and asthma.
The World Health Organisation has actually listed around 40 conditions that can be successfully treated with acupuncture.
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